In celebration of Black History Month, throughout February USTA Florida recognizes all of those in the Black community whose talents and dedication help to grow the great game of tennis every day — at every level. We applaud them all for making tennis a better and more inclusive sport, and for making the face of our game more accurately reflect the dynamic diversity of our country. As part of our coverage, USTA Florida has provided a platform for community members to be honest and open about their thoughts and experiences.
Mary McCoy is a powerhouse in Daytona Beach and has made major contributions to the Derbyshire community. Her passion for introducing tennis to children in her community is so strong that she founded Derbyshire Community Tennis, Inc., which was officially recognized as a National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) chapter in 2021.
“I met this amazing woman in 2010 when I was officiating a junior team tennis event. I was so impressed with her dedication to the children in her community that I joined as a board member,” shared Lynn Ford, who still actively serves as a board member for Derbyshire Community Tennis, Inc. “Due to Mary’s commitment over the years, several groups of kids were given the opportunity to experience the game we love. These opportunities may not have occurred without Mary’s dedication.”
McCoy has been coaching for more than 12 years at the high school level and coaches varsity girls’ tennis at Mainland High School in Daytona Beach. Since being incorporated, several participants in the Derbyshire Community Tennis program have gone on to play high school and college tennis.
When did you first pick up a tennis racquet?
I first picked up a racquet in the late 90s. A friend needed a player to start her Greater Volusia Tennis League (GVTL) 2.0 beginner tennis team. Knowing I was an athlete, she asked me to give it a shot. Needless to say, I continued to improve my game reaching a USTA 4.5 doubles rating and a 4.0 rating with my local GVTL in singles.
You are the Founder of Derbyshire Community Tennis Inc. Can you share some of the history behind Derbyshire?
My three children play tennis and they were a part of a program that allowed them to have free access to tennis lessons at the Derbyshire Tennis Facility. The program was titled “Tennis in the Hood” and was run by Mr. Johnny Van Sessions. When he retired, there was no one on the court to provide the ongoing service. I realized if I wanted this to continue, I had to pick up the mantle and make it happen. I solicited volunteers and partnered with the City of Daytona Beach Leisure Services Department, the Daytona Beach Police Department and Bethune Cookman University (BCU). At the time, Tim Pleasant was the Head Coach at BCU and was instrumental in making the program happen along with a plethora of community volunteers.
With the determination of Lynn Ford, volunteer treasurer, and other board members, we became incorporated as Derbyshire Community Tennis, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2012. The program provides free tennis lessons for participants ages 6-18 who may not have had an opportunity to be introduced to the game of tennis.
What is the goal of Derbyshire Community Tennis Inc.?
Our mission is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of today’s youth utilizing tennis as a vehicle to develop life skills and learning opportunities for all.
Derbyshire was officially recognized as a National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) chapter in 2021. How did it feel to achieve that status? What did that mean to you?
Our program is excited to be registered as an NJTL where our participants are given the opportunity to grow in tennis and learn the fundamentals of being a team player. A special highlight from our first year as an NJTL chapter was having one of our participants, Paisley Ferguson, recognized as a 2021 NJTL essay contest winner for our chapter.
What do you find to be the most rewarding part of your role as the Founder of Derbyshire?
Being able to represent and provide free tennis lessons to kids, who may not have had the opportunity to learn, in their own backyard. Our mission to educate and provide greater opportunities to participants in this community. Not to mention working with our amazing volunteers and partners who support the program to help keep it going. This program would not be a success story without their dedication.
Beyond founding Derbyshire, what are some additional highlights that stand out in your tennis career?
- Being honored by the USTA as the 10 & Under Volunteer of the Year
- Being featured on the cover of the USTA training guide assisting students
- Working for years with the City of Daytona Beach to get 10 & under courts installed at the Derbyshire Tennis Facility and resurfacing the remaining courts
- Volunteering at Westside Elementary for their tennis opening
- Being honored by the City of Daytona Beach for the free Derbyshire Community Tennis program
- Attending the US Open as a volunteer with Johnny Van Session, having a photo op with Mr. Richard Williams and watching Venus and Serena Williams play
- Finally, becoming a certified USTA Official in 2020, giving me the opportunity to share the love of the game with juniors as well as help them with the rules of tennis.
Have you ever felt less valued in a tennis-related space because of your racial background? Please share any experiences.
Yes. On one occasion when I was arriving to play a match at a predominantly white prestigious club, I was asked if I was in the right play. I had arrived in tennis attire with some other players who were white, but it was clear that I was the only person of color.
What do you believe can be done to foster long-term change when it comes to racial inequality in Florida tennis? What do you think USTA Florida could do to strengthen its relationship with minority communities?
It’s important to understand the underlying causes and conditions of racial inequities to effectively inform and promote racial equity. I feel if we work closely with our communities and invite them to play a part in improving the systemic disadvantages, this will be the beginning of fostering long-term change. Including members of the community and allowing them to have a voice and a seat at the table when procedures and policies are being made can go a long way.
Why is it important to celebrate Black History Month in general, as well as in tennis?
Black History Month takes us beyond the history books – it unites us, it celebrates diversity and it helps us understand the importance of our stories. In tennis and any other sport, we need to recognize the trailblazers and continue to advocate for equity in every arena of our lives.
Why is it important to not only support and celebrate other cultures but be inclusive to all?
I believe that we are all created equal and as such should receive equal opportunity.
USTA Florida believes tennis is for everyone. For more information about USTA Florida’s Amplify initiative, visit USTAFlorida.com/Amplify.